SPRINGFIELD – Winter is nearly here, and with colder temperatures often comes the temptation for children become less active and gain weight. According to doctors, New Englanders tend to be more sedentary in the winter because it feels good to escape frigid temperatures by cuddling at home in front of the television. When you factor in holiday season celebrations and meals, the winter season can be real recipe for weight gain.
Dr. Chrystal Wittcopp, pediatrician and director of the Pediatric Weight Management Program at Baystate Children’s’ Hospital, offers these tips on how to keep you and your kids healthy and fit over the winter season and winter break:
When you’re trying to keep off that winter weight it’s really important to incorporate at least 60 minutes per day of moderate level physical activity. While 60 minutes each day may seem like a lofty goal, Dr. Wittcopp says that cold air shouldn’t prevent children from bundling up and going outside during the winter months. However, she does caution that it may be healthiest to stay inside during days where temperatures plummet below zero. Even after snowstorms, most local parks are still open so you and your family can go out for a walk in a safe environment. In fact, walking through snow burns a fair amount of calories. The same can be said for sledding, ice skating and building snowmen. If you need to get out of the snow and warm up, there are indoor activity options, too. Most local schools that have swimming pools host open swim and gym times during the winter.
Diet also plays a major role in keeping off those winter pounds. It’s important to manage what you’re eating because in one meal you can easily consume enough calories to outdo any of the exercise you did all week. During holiday meals, try to avoid getting second servings, limit yourself to your favorite dishes, and portion size them appropriately. To limit calorie intake, be mindful of sugary drinks that kids gravitate towards, like soda, and encourage them to instead drink water with dinner.
Ask For Help
If you feel that your family may need some extra help, the Baystate Pediatric Weight Management program can lend a helping hand. The medical based program includes assistance from a registered dietitian, psychologist, social worker and pediatrician. The team approach to weight management ensures that weight isn’t causing any other health problems like diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol. Once patients are in the program, they have an option to sign up for the M.I.G.H.T.Y program. M.I.G.H.T.Y, or Moving Improving and Gaining Health Together, is a six month program that works with patients at the local YMCA. Every other week patients spend two hours exercising and meeting with a registered dietitian. They also sit down with a social worker and psychologist to motivate them to keep up the healthy habits outside of the exercise program. Lastly, it’s proven that a family that plays together stays fit together, so the program also includes a family membership to the Springfield YMCA.
Limit Screen Time
Kids are great about coming up with their own activities, but to do so they need time away from televisions, iPads, and iPhones. If you let them sit in front of the screen with video games and television all day long, they will, Set limits and stick to them, especially when kids are on school breaks! The recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics is no more than 2 hours of screen time per day. When away from the screen, children don’t necessarily have to be outside running around and sweating, but anything that’s not screen time is better for maintaining their weight. Reading a book, arts and crafts, board games or even chores are all examples of great activities that they can do while they are home.
For more information on Baystate Children’s Hospital, visit baystatehealth.org/bch.